The Holes in My Heart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 30, 2008
As a child in Cambodia, life was difficult. It went from bad to worse when my mother got sick. As usual, my father left us and went someplace else. I hardly ever saw him. I loved my ­father and maybe I still do. He wasn’t a nice man, though. He used to hit us, especially my mom. I never knew what we did wrong. Maybe the alcohol took over his mind.

One time after he left, I overheard people talking about how he had fallen in love and gotten married all over again. I never saw him after that.

Meanwhile, my poor mother’s heart was slowly melting. She was paralyzed because my dad hit her so much. She couldn’t move half of her body. So, at the age of six, I took care of her and my two brothers and sister. We had no money and lived in a very rural area without electricity and water. I had to cook, clean, beg for rice, and be the mother of the family. I rarely went to school.

I think my mom had seen me suffer enough. I’d had enough too! So, to make things easier, my mom sent my sister and one of my brothers to live with relatives in another village. People in Cambodia often take care of relatives’ children. I missed them but knew they were being cared for. I was the oldest, so I stayed; my mother needed me to take care of her and my baby brother, Long.

For a while it was just Long, my mother, and I. But then my brother, who was less than a year old, was very sick and skinny. One day I came home and Long wasn’t there. My mom said she had given him away to someone who said they could take care of him. He wasn’t coming back.

I was sad and confused but didn’t ask too many questions. I knew it must have been difficult for her, and we had no money for food or doctors to help Long. We didn’t know where he had gone, but my mom trusted the stranger who took him away, and hoped – we both hoped – that he would be safe and healthy.

My mom and I went on with our lives. We loved each other very much, but we suffered silently day ­after day. We were still struggling with hardly any money or food, and we missed Long terribly but ­never talked about him.

One afternoon, about a year after Long left, we ­received some good news. A man from the city came to our village and told us that a family in the United States had adopted my baby brother. He showed us pictures. My brother, now named Shane, was smiling, wearing nice clothes, and looking very healthy. Even though we missed him and life was hard for us, my mom and I were so happy to know that my brother was okay.

My peace did not last long. One night I had a horrible dream that my mom left me. I was crying and I couldn’t stop. I cried for such a long time that I woke my mother. I told her what I had dreamt. She said that she would never leave me.

Weeks passed, and then my nightmare came true. My mother died of a stroke. I blame my dad because of the injuries he gave her. Thinking about it now, I hate him.

I wish I could have done something. But when I saw my mother collapse, time passed so quickly I didn’t know what to do. I was only eight! The day my mother died, I didn’t cry because I didn’t know what death was. I did cry when they buried her. I knew at that moment that I would never see her again.

After my mother died, one of my aunts took me in. She was very poor, just like my mother. She was mean, and I think she was mad that she had to take care of me, but I had nowhere else to go.

One day the man who had brought the pictures of my baby brother came to visit again. It had taken him a long time to find us because I had moved. He was sad to hear that my mother had died. Then he gave me new clothes, a doll, and more pictures of my brother. My aunt asked him if the family who adopted my brother would want to adopt me too. The man turned to me and asked if I wanted to go live with my brother in the United States. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, I said yes. He said he would find out if it was possible. I waited for what seemed like forever. I started to think that maybe the American family did not want me.

But that wasn’t the case.

About a year later, the Americans who had adopted my brother finally came for me. As I now know, there is a lot of paperwork involved with adoption. They had to get permission from my family, the Cambodian government, and the United States government before they could come to get me.

The first time I saw my new parents was in a hotel lobby. I told the translator that they had long noses. I didn’t know I was being rude; I just wasn’t used to seeing Caucasian people. I was really nervous around them. I think they were nervous too. I didn’t smile until we went to the hotel room and my new mom showed me the clothes she had brought me. My face lit up fast! We didn’t talk much because I didn’t know how to speak English, but she made flash cards with pictures to help us communicate.

The day we left Cambodia I was filled with emotions. I was eager, worried, upset, and confused because I didn’t know where we were going and I had never been on a plane before. All I remember about my trip was that I threw up for most of the 21-hour flight. It was like the plane was a gigantic sickening machine. It felt as though the trip would never end.

When we landed in the United States I was so ­happy. After we waited in a bunch of lines, we walked out of the airport. The air was a lot colder than in Cambodia. In the distance, I saw a strange man waving at us. He looked excited and happy. I ­also saw a little boy next to him. I knew immediately it was my brother. I didn’t act excited to see him ­because I was still feeling so sick from the plane, but I was really thrilled.

My new grandpa drove us to my new home. In the car I looked out the window and saw strange yet beautiful houses. I kept peeking at my brother. He was now three years old and looked so clean and healthy compared to the last time I had seen him. At that moment I knew that I was going to be happy again.

And that is where I am now. The nightmares have ended because of two wonderful people who adopted my brother Shane and me. Adjusting to life in the United States wasn’t easy, but getting adopted is the most beautiful feeling. Even though we are not related by blood, I knew from that first day that my dad and mom cared about me very much. They filled up all the holes in my heart.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 178 comments. Post your own now!

MattsGurl said...
Sept. 15, 2010 at 9:47 am
Awwww oh my god i feel so happy for you!my mom was near death about 4 times i would be in despair if she did.But wow that was great!!!!
OMGitsDanielle said...
Aug. 26, 2010 at 1:10 pm
Wow, this story was very touching. Tears formed in my eyes as i read this. I wish you and your family the best.
xynab-emogrl-u-wud-luv said...
Aug. 5, 2010 at 11:02 am
WOW!!!........i cried....amazing <3 
Jo H. said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm
I am adopted too, but when I was one. Some of my friends were adopted at twelve.
CadyR said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm
This was totally beautiful and moving. I hope you live a happy & healthy life now because you deserve it.
inksplatters21 said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm
I'm so sorry about your mother and father, but it's wonderful that everything worked out.  Would people mind reading/commenting on my work?  thank you
SummerSunshine777 replied...
Apr. 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm
iv never cried while reading something i guess there is  always a first time for something <3 im glad that there was a happy ending 
br123 said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm
I've learned a lot about Cambodia's Killing Fields and I have heard a few stories, but to hear about the aftermath and how Pol Pot has even affected the children of Cambodia today, really makes me want to do something to help. Great writing and I feel very moved by your story.
kielymarie said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm so happy it all worked out for you and your brother!
. said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 11:46 am
that is so beautiful.
Macx14 said...
Jul. 20, 2010 at 9:13 am
I can't even imagine how courageous a person has to be to not only make it through something like that, but then share with a lot of people. You've done so many amazing things and your writing is beautiful!!
rainingcolor said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 4:56 pm
this is really good. I haven't really been able to write like this in a long time. I'm cambodian too but I was born in the us. I don't know much cambodian because im mixed. Mexican and cambodian. people call me asican. For asain and mexican. well anyway this was really good. i think a few tears slipped out at the end.
Shelly-T said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm
Wow.  It must have taken a lot to write that and share it with us.  Thanks for that. 
MercedesXO said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 11:26 am
this is a very thouching, sad, and inspiering story. i can't believe all that you went through, and i'm so sorry for your losses. i can't tell you how happy it makes me feel to know that you are now well and happy and are back with your brother. i was adopted as well, however i always lived in Massachusetts. It was scary and exciting and new and everything. and i got adopted with two of my other sisters when i was eight years old. it was extremely difficult for me because i still remembered my b... (more »)
palakThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 12:48 am
it was a very moving story....i admire u for your of luck....keep penning
alanacarlene said...
Jun. 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm
This was beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes when your mother died. I think it's amazing how strong you were and still are! It's inspiring and your english sure has improved! Amazing, beautiful, wonderful job!
gurly_gurl1324 said...
Jun. 19, 2010 at 7:05 pm
i  loved your story ,also i loved when you said they filled all the holes in my heart. great story
SharpieChance said...
Jun. 19, 2010 at 6:12 pm
Beautiful. That is all I can say about this: It is Beautiful in a sad way.
Sumana2 said...
Jun. 19, 2010 at 3:51 pm
This made me cry, especially the last line, "they filled the holes in my heart." You did a great job
starxoxo23 said...
Jun. 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm
You have been through so much and yet you're still able to care a lot for other people and you even write about your experiences... you seem like a very strong person. It's terrible that you have experienced so much pain and tragedy in your life. But I'm glad that you've accepted a new lifestyle and are happy. This is an amazing, beautiful story.
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